Shamrock© Copyright – 2014 – Athletics Illustrated

Geoff Martinson and Brittany Therrien hopped onto a seaplane in downtown Victoria. After a scenic 20-minute flight that offered vistas of coastal mountains and the gulf islands, they landed in downtown Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, which is back-dropped by the North Shore mountains on one side and skyscrapers on the other. On race morning they found themselves in the back seat of a new Maserati Ghibli Q4. They were subsequently chauffeured to the St. Patrick’s Day 5k start line in style. They emerged from the Ghibli in front of 1,800 fellow runners, ready for their final pre-race rituals.

Martinson was prepared to perform like the Ghibli. He was fresh from a course record win, six days before, at the Synergy Health Management Bazan Bay 5k in Victoria, where he had led from the gun to the tape, unchallenged.

The St. Patrick’s Day race took place under cloudy but mild conditions. Winners were Martinson, who finished in 14:24, and Rachel Cliff of Vancouver with her 16:15 finish time. Both are new course records. Masters winners (40-plus) were a pair of Vancouver runners, Catherine Watkins with her 17:11 and Kevin O’Connor with his 15:28.

Martinson settled into the back of the main pack of two Vancouver area runners, Rob Watson and Kelly Wiebe, who both train under Richard Lee in the BC Endurance Project, as well as the University of Victoria’s Kyle Irvine.

Irvine sat and waited within the first mile, being a 1500-metre specialist, he was likely hoping to win the first-mile prize, which is $150. The prize can only be won by the first person to cross the mile timing mat and finish within one minute of the overall winner for the full 5k race. Irvine did cross the mile timing mat first, however, he missed his opportunity for the mile prize by finishing in 15:26 to Martinson’s 14:24 – two seconds outside the allowable difference.

In contrast, Martinson held back, which allowed him to run a finish line sprint that saw him defeat Wiebe, who crossed the line in 14:28. Third went to BCEP training partner Watson who finished in 14:44, followed by Vancouver’s Ryan Brockerville, Theo Hunt, Dylan Haight, Patrick Psotka, Ben Weir, Tim Huebsch and Thomas Getty to round out the top-ten men.

When Martinson was asked about the event he said, “They treat you very well here and the race is well organised. I even got a ride to the race in a Maserati.”

Rachel Cliff earned $1,100 for her win, by combining the mile prize, winning the race and breaking the course record. She did this by defeating Natasha Wodak who finished nine seconds back. Trinity Western University’s Sarah Inglis, who hails from Scotland, finished in third position with her 16:51. She was followed in by Nanaimo’s Erin Burrett two seconds later. Burrett recently posted a come-from-behind victory at the Bazan Bay 5k, where she achieved a new personal best time of 16:35. Vancouver’s Sabrina Wilkie was the final woman to cross the line under 17 minutes by finishing in 16:53. Bazan Bay 5k bridesmaid, Kimberley Doerksen of Gibsons, BC finished next in 17:01. She was followed in by first place master Watkins, Erica Digby, Katherine Moore, and Anne-Marie Madden to round out the top-ten women. Cliff said, “It was good to get the win because going through the first mile, I thought I was a little fast. It was a good race today.”

Kevin O’Connor of Vancouver, at nearly 47-years-old, won the masters division in 15:28 over Victoria’s Craig Odermatt, who in rare fashion finished over the 16-minute mark with his final time being 16:06, to give him the win the younger 40-44 age-group. Third place master was 50-54 age-group competitor Mark Bennett of Vancouver who won his age-class by finishing in 16:20 – a 41-second win. O’Connor said, “I am happy with the time, one of my main goals this year is to take the Canadian 45-59 age-group record in the 10k, which is just over 31 minutes. I would love to get under 31 at the Vancouver Sun Run, which is the race I am aiming for.” He added, “This was my first race in five months, so it was good to get into a race situation to see where I am at.”

Like Martinson, Watkins was fresh off her Bazan Bay 5k (masters) win to make it back-to-back weekends. She will continue with a third consecutive win attempt by racing the Modo 8k, which is a part of the Canada Running Series and will also take place in Stanley Park. Watkins finished ahead of her next competitor, Vancouver’s Darcie Montgomery who ran the race in 18:34. North Vancouver’s Tracy Wakaluk finished third master female in 19:05.

The BMO St. Patrick’s Day 5k takes place on a rolling route that starts on Pipeline Rd in Stanley Park and wends its way around the waterfront before turning back onto Pipeline – to form a circular route, then finally utilizes the Pavilion driveway for the finish.  The flat and downhill start with a first-mile time prize promises a fast start, but a long gradual hill to the finish tempers the potential personal best performances.

The St. Patrick’s Day event offers green beer and a post-race party that is unusual for a medium-sized road race (1,800 finishers) with a packed post-race party, music, and many draw prizes, the event caters to runners of all abilities and pays special attention to the elite level. Age-group winners receive Ryder brand sunglasses. The finish chute includes a digital display that lights up the finish area. Many of the finishers (of all abilities) were in full Irish regalia and green costumes. The event provides a superb demonstration to race directors of how race events can be organised.